I would like a break, please. I know that to some, my whole life sounds like a break. I don't have a job to go to. I get to stay home with my amazing daughter. I have a pool... But when you're down in the thick of it, any Stay-At-Home-Mom can (and WILL) tell you that it's not always sunshine and lollipops.
My job begins when my daughter wakes up, and ends when she goes to bed. I'm not trying to minimize the effort put in by my darling husband. He does more than most of the husbands that I know of, and I am grateful to him every day, but it's different for him. Yes, he gets up at the ass-crack of dawn and goes into the office. And yes, he then proceeds to work his butt off so that he can be home in time to play with his daughter, have dinner with his family, and be the one to rock his angel to sleep most nights. BUT, once he's out the front door, his only responsibility is HIM. He can tune out whatever he needs to and just work. It's totally different.
I can vaguely remember a time when my own career was my focus. I got up every morning, made sure that I was clean, fed and at work on time. I worked my butt off while I was there, then came home and did whatever needed to be done that evening... or not. It didn't matter if I slacked off when I wanted a break. If the dishes were dirty, the errands ignored or the laundry undone, nobody cared, and I was the only one without clean underwear (My husband has never actually minded if the kitchen was a pigsty, and ever since The Great Laundry Standoff several years back, either he or the housekeeper have done his laundry).
Now, every move that I make is either shadowed by or impacts a tiny person who is completely dependent upon me AND considers me to be the ultimate form of entertainment, the giver of comfort and the receptacle of frustrations. Dishes have to be clean - you just can't feed your child off dirty dishes... no matter how tempting it might be some days... Errands must be run - those diapers don't just magically appear on the changing table... trust me... Laundry... oh the laundry! Food, dirt, paint, drool, snot - it ALL ends up on the clothes...
Mothers of small children joke about just wanting to be able to go to the bathroom by themselves. What you may not hear in our at-my-limit-voice or see in our exhausted eyes is the fact that we. are. never. alone.
Brushing your teeth isn't just something you do as you pick out your clothes any more. Now it involves getting out a tiny stool. Retrieving and readying an additional tiny toothbrush. Making sure that your spouse didn't leave his razor within reach of roaming fingers. Monitoring water splash-age and clothing dryness while trying not to spit on your kid's hands, head or toothbrush. Then the tot must be coaxed off the stool, dried off and shooed out of the bathroom (all kids LOVE the bathroom).
Making a meal isn't just a chore or an act of love, it's a battle of wills and a race against the clock. The child must be occupied in a way that requires little or no supervision. Cooking must be accomplished before said child's attention span runs out and they resort to whining, screaming or all-out destruction in order to procure Mama's full attention.
Lily Ruth has decided that meal preparation time is an excellent time for her to practice cooking as well. She scoots me out of the way with a 'cuse me, Mommy' and empties 'her' kitchen drawer one item at a time. She bustles in and out of the kitchen muttering about 'cooking' and 'Kee eat... Bingy eat... Lucy eat...' She creates piles of measuring cups and spoons. She strews bottles of kitchen spices and baking sprinkles from one end of the house to the other. She walks off with my dish towels every. damn. time. :-P Rarely do I complete a meal without stopping to give her my full attention at least five times. If it's not a request for my 'HELP, Mommy, HELP!', it's a cry for attention due to a manufactured fall or a giggled request to 'come get me' followed by a slammed door.
What I long for is a time that I can switch off. An actual break. Not just a nap time when I only have to listen with one ear while hurrying through a few (quiet) chores or obsessing about the things that need to be done, but a time when I genuinely am not expected (by myself or anyone else) to achieve anything. I used to get that feeling when I went tube-ing. No one can expect you to return a phone call, pay a bill or wash a sink full of dishes while you are floating down the Comal river in a giant inner tube. It's really just you, whatever libations you have brought along for the ride, a few good friends, and the water.
Ya'll, I think I'm gonna hit the river this week. Who's with me?